Books, Writing, Drawing and Life on a Remote Island.

Category: Groote Eylandt

Groote Eylandt – One for the Ladies!

What do you get if you put 84 ladies, a fishing competition and one of the most spectacular fisheries in Australia together? A whole lot of fun, some impressive fish and a seriously hot competition for all.

GECSFC Ladies Competition

Groote Eylandt Game and Sport Fishing Club’s Ladies Competition has been running now for seven years. I have been lucky enough to participate in the last five of them. Each year the competition gets bigger and better – it peaked in 2016 with 127 ladies taking part. Not bad for a tiny remote town with a population of approximately 1000 people in all, hey?

‘Best Photo’ winners – Kiss our Basses!

For me, and many other ladies who live on Groote, it’s one of the highlights of the year. It’s an event that gives us girls an excuse (and a push) to leave behind the cares of daily life for a day or two and get out on the water amongst some awesome fishing and scenery.

A lot of people know that I love getting out on the water. I love fishing. I love the time I get to spend with family and friends on the boat, out in the rivers and on the sea. I love emerging myself in the spectacular environment that Groote Eylandt has to offer. Of course that’s all great, but what I particularly love this time of year is seeing those who are new to fishing, or who simply can’t get out there much, giving it a go and having an amazing time and lots of laughs in the process.

Not just about fishing…

Over the years, I have encouraged ladies to enter the competition, only to have that hesitant, ‘Oh, but I don’t fish…’ come back in reply. Those that go ahead and enter anyway have always come back afterwards glowing – and no, it’s not sunburn. There’s a happy (and sometimes newly competitive) glint in their eye, and a determination to do it all again next year with a new understanding – it’s not just about the fishing!

My team – ‘Bigfish is the new black’

Perhaps even more important is the company and camaraderie we get from hanging out with the girls, skippers and support crews (dads, babysitters, partners and bar tenders) who all have one goal in mind. Fun!

Groote Eylandt fishing

It helps that Groote has some of the best fishing in Australia (well, I think so). This year, our team caught 20 different species, from golden snapper and nannygai, to barramundi and barracuda. Tuna, mackerel, shark, mangrove jack, cod, blue nosed salmon and plenty more were hooked.

And some were not, despite a fair bit of effort and a few comic errors. At least no one fell overboard this year, but I have never before put so much effort into trying to catch a batfish (with no success) or a sea mullet (yay! Caught that one). It’s not just about the spectacular prize-fish people usually target… that batfish would have been worth an equal number of points to a barramundi. That’s another reason I love this comp.

Kelly’s black marlin!

Well done to all the girls who entered, from Kelly, who caught a spectacular black marlin as big as her boat, to Lou who caught her own finger (ouch!). They both have the photos to prove it. The presentation night was also a highlight for many who brought along their fishing shirts and dancing shoes and danced well into the night.

Unfortunately, that’s it for another year. Now we are left with sore feet, fantastic memories, photographs… and a countdown to the next one.


*Do you have a local event that you look forward to every year? I’d love to hear about it… leave a comment below.

All photos courtesy of GEGSFC Facebook page, Melainie Collins, or own collection.

*Thanks to the GEGSFC and all the organisers, especially Melainie Collins – without whom there would have been no event.

Organisers and helpers, 2017

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The 400-Metre-Holiday

You know I live on an island, right? Groote Eylandt. Did you know that this island is in one of the most remote areas in Australia? Did you know that it is a phenomenally stunning place full of tropical, white sandy beaches, year-round warm weather, amazing culture and Australian native wildlife?

So where do you go when you live in such a place and you’re in need of a luxurious break… but you only have the weekend? How about 400 metres down the road?

Yes! My family and I just had a mini-break for the weekend, about 400 metres down the road from our house at the Groote Eylandt Lodge. And I tell you, I’d recommend a 400-metre-holiday to anyone.

Groote Eylandt Sunset - Rachel Barnett

Groote Eylandt Sunset

At first it felt a little strange. Hubby and I drove down the road with our bags, making jokes about the long drive. We got out and checked in to our hotel, less than a kilometre from our own front door.

I mean, the canapes on arrival were set up beautifully on the outdoor deck, and we were surrounded by people who we knew (such a tiny town!) who had come down for Friday drinks. Yes, jokes were cracked at our romantic dinner for two (I think that was mostly my husband), but it was lovely sitting there, on the deck, watching sugar gliders in the trees as we ate our seafood canapes and drank our complimentary bubbly.

It didn’t take long to feel like we were much further away from home than we really were.

Groote Eylandt Logde. Rachel Barnett

The Lodge

It also felt a little strange heading back to our bungalow instead of walking the short distance home after dinner, but then the huge spa made me forget all about my own spa-less bathroom up the road. And the thought of uninterrupted sleep for a whole night (don’t forget, I’m the mother of small children) was just the trick to make me relax into our 400-metre-holiday in no time at all. Soon we were sitting on the deck in front of our room, watching the bandicoots fossicking and the tawny frog mouth that landed less than a metre from us on the rail keenly looking for its own dinner, remarking how lucky we were.

Sunsets by the pool. Rachel Barnett

Sunsets by the pool

The next day, getting up without a 5am-alarm-child in my ear and ambling through the resort to the restaurant-with-a-view for our full cooked breakfast was wonderful too. And then I got to write… on the deck, overlooking the sea… for two whole hours!

Yes, it was to be short lived… the kids were joining us that day. Come on, there was no way they would let us have both nights to ourselves… they need holidays too! (In truth, I was having withdrawals from their rowdiness.) But sitting there for that short while, was bliss.

Then there were kids…

The kids bowled on in around lunch time and set about exploring (dismantling) our room. Hotel rooms are super exciting! After that it was time to hit the pool, and we literally spent the whole afternoon just hanging about the deck, swimming (CANNON BALL!) and taking in the phenomenal view which we felt like we had all to ourselves. And it is an amazing view, especially on dusk as the sun sets over the sea and nearby Connexion Island. The photos seriously don’t do it justice.

Now, I know you might be thinking… but you can visit the Groote Eylandt Lodge and that beach any time. And that’s why, at first it did feel a bit strange to take a holiday just down the road. If we had not been lucky enough to win the accommodation in a raffle, I might never have done it – thinking just that.

Wallaby. Rachel Barnett

Watching a wallaby.

Yes, I CAN visit that beach any time. But, the reality is… I don’t do it enough. This beach is a 5-to-10-minute walk from my home, and yet I don’t clearly remember the last time we visited. Hey, day to day life can get in the way of that type of thing. Chores, errands, kids, life. It’s distracting.

Even if it was only 400 metres away, this little break did well to remind me to ‘look up’. To remember what I have right here on my doorstep. Surely, this doesn’t just apply to Groote?

If you haven’t been to Groote Eylandt, look it up. I reckon it should be high on your list of travel destinations. There’s a stack of things to do that the Groote Eylandt Lodge can arrange.

If you are lucky enough to live here, like me, remember… not all places are this stunning. Not everyone gets to see this. Don’t forget to look up and take it all in.

Happy Days!

Rach x

What’s the best thing you have ever done as a tourist in your own town?

Check out my book There’s a Crocodile on the Golf Course here.

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